The Alamo

The Alamo


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

At a time when the failure of American foreign policy is glaringly - some might say obscenely - obvious, why remake a movie about a famous defeat? Masochists will rejoice. There is nothing better than stiffening the lip and dying pointlessly.

The defence of a ruined fort in the flyblown town of San Antone, against a superior force of trained Mexican troops, seemed reckless in the extreme. "So goes The Alamo, so goes Texas" was the rallying cry, despite the fact that Texas did not belong to the United States of this new fangled democracy - not yet, anyway.

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The Mexicans were on the march, reclaiming land stolen from them by white settlers who had fought the Indian wars and won. One hundred and twenty four men holed up in this grotty garrison, expecting to be relieved by General Houston, who wasn't going to budge from the safety of his camp until the prospects of victory were more advantageous.

The 1960 version of this siege, directed by and starring John Wayne, was three-and-a-half hours long. Thank God, John Lee Hancock's remake is an hour shorter, because the film feels dead from the very beginning.

Jason Patric is in full Method mode as Jim Bowie, the knife man, who appears more of a mercenary leader, with his band of renegades, than the colonel of any serious army. Later, he succumbs to TB and faces the onslaught from his deathbed.

Billy Bob Thornton is "the bear killer", Davy ("Call me David") Crockett, who likes to remind everyone that he is a US senator and not some hillbilly hero from the sticks. He plays a mean fiddle and entertains the lads with homespun anecdotes.

Patrick Wilson has the thankless task of playing Col William Travis, a posh young cavalry officer, who is put in charge of defending The Alamo, even though he hasn't the personality to control this bearded, unwashed rabble.

Dennis Quaid, as Houston, looks pissed off and faintly absurd, especially on his white stallion. Only Emilio Echevarria, as the brutal dandyish Mexican commander ("The lives of soldiers are like those of chickens") appears to relish the opportunity to ham it up with style.

This is a sitting-about-and-waiting movie. You know what's going to happen and don't relish the prospect of witnessing it. Courage is two faced, either glorious or stupid. As portrayed here, The Alamo belongs in the latter category.

Reviewed on: 02 Sep 2004
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Tragic defence of a flyblown fort in Texas against a superior Mexican army.
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Director: John Lee Hancock

Writer: Leslie Bohem, Stephen Gagham, John Lee Hancock

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, Jason Patric, Patrick Wilson, Emilio Echevarria, Jordi Molla, Leon Rippy, Tom Davidson

Year: 2004

Runtime: 137 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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